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Review: The express train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Travel Service - Bus & train


Let the train take the strain, if you have the time

  • By SilverTraveller HMJ

    740 reviews

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  • January 2019

42 people found this review helpful

We’d flown from Bangkok to Chiang Rai and thought it would be interesting to return from Chiang Mai to the capital by train. Our advance tickets for the ten-and-a-half-hour journey cost 640 Baht each or a reasonable £16. The train runs during the day and night with many backpackers taking the latter, as it’s a cheap hotel. However, we wanted the scenery so chose the 8.50am train (number 8) scheduled to arrive in Bangkok at 7.25pm.

Arriving early, a charming, helpful member of staff posed for photographs, carried our suitcases and got them stored on the overhead rack. The train filled with tourists and Thais and eventually we set off, bang on time. We were armed with Seven Eleven snacks as we weren’t sure what the meal position was, but we’d read that alcohol is banned.

The three classless carriages resembled a cross country sprinter train and our seats on the left hand side had been chosen to avoid the hot afternoon sun.

Each carriage had a dedicated female attendant in black trousers and pink jacket who kept us supplied with refreshments and walked through the carriage announcing each stop (there’s no PA system or visual signs). After 90 minutes, tea, coffee and water were served along with a Smiling Sweet Pastry, similar to a jam tart, with a best before date of 25 February 2562 (the Buddhist calendar is 543 years ahead).

Bearing in mind, this is the fastest train, it was pretty slow going and there was lots of horn tooting as we passed through the rice fields.

Lunch was cartons of mackerel in teriyaki, steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried minced chicken in holy basil. To us It was all pretty revolting and we were glad of our Seven Eleven snacks.

We stopped at numerous stations and the train filled up with Thais carrying boxes of all shapes and sizes. Each one was served a meal and had their ticket carefully crossed off a list by an officious looking collector.

Although I’d tried to limit liquids, eventually, I had to visit the loo, which wasn’t too bad as it went straight down onto the track and the way to flush it was a hose. However, it had a very wet floor and was pleased I’d worn shorts.

The scenery wasn’t as stunning or diverse as I’d imagined, and I was glad of a quiz book and podcasts on my phone as I could listen whilst looking out of the window. The carriage had air conditioning so I was pleased I’d kept out a light wrap.

A mid-afternoon custard filled bun and drinks were served at around the five-hour point just as bottoms were becoming slightly numb although the train appeared to speed up.
At 6pm, the sun was setting over the rice fields and we stopped at Ayutthaya (the former Royal capital) and lots of Thais got on. As the distance was only 90km by road, we assumed we’d head straight into Bangkok, but no, we stopped frequently and by the end of the line, there were only tourists left on the train.

After nearly 20 stops, we arrived virtually on time at 7.25pm and then had the job of getting the heavy suitcases down from the overhead rack and then down the steep steps which included a final one which required quite a leap.

Would I recommend it over flying? If time is short no, but it is certainly quite an experience.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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